TURKEY: Turkey replaces prosecutor who indicted US pastor Brunson

World Watch Monitor | 090918

At the outset last week of Turkey’s new judicial year, the Izmir prosecutor who prepared the controversial indictment accusing US pastor Andrew Brunson of terrorism and espionage was reassigned to another bureau.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul dismissed the transfer simply as a “routine procedure” with no particular significance, referring to Turkey’s common practice of changing judges and prosecutors mid-way through the trial process.

Stating that the prosecutor in question had been removed from the Anti-Terror Bureau and assigned to the Bureau of Cybercrimes, Gul said the Izmir Chief Prosecutor’s office had also reassigned five other prosecutors.

But the replacement of Berkant Karakay, identified in the Turkish press as Brunson’s main prosecutor, was described by Brunson’s lawyer as a move that could bring positive change in the pastor’s highly disputed case.

However, lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt clarified to Reuters on 6 September that it would be wrong to expect this judicial transfer to result in the pastor’s release.

“He [Karakaay] has constantly added fresh testimonies from anonymous witnesses who had nothing to do with my client,” the lawyer said. “Now his removal might be a sign that the will about this case is changing.

“But it is not right to say that [Brunson] might be freed based on this development. We will have to wait and see.”

US President Donald Trump had expected the US clergyman, jailed now for nearly two years, to be released after his third trial hearing on 18 July. Brunson was instead transferred a week later to house arrest. He remains under guard in his Izmir home until the next trial, set for 12 October.

Presidential ping-pong

Trump admitted to Bloomberg News on 30 August that he felt “personally let down” after he had promised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a week before Brunson’s July trial, to help him secure the release of a Turkish citizen detained in Israel. After the two leaders’ very brief interaction in person on the sidelines of the Brussels NATO summit, Trump believed that Erdogan had agreed to facilitate Brunson’s release, in response to Trump’s successful influence with Israel.

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